2018
01.06

RACE PREVIEW

> The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT off to special Paul Ricard race to defend leadership in all standings

 

Summer is around the corner, and with the warm days comes the Ricard… We are meaning the Circuit Paul Ricard, obviously, as the stop in Southern France has become one of the most characteristic, popular and awaited rounds in the Blancpain GT Series calendar. The event, part of the Endurance Cup, is unique in its kind, as it is run on a 6-hour format (being the longest race of the season after the Total 24 Hours of Spa) and takes place on Saturday eve, finishing in total darkness. This year, the iconic track near Le Castellet will present itself in shining condition and with many improvements, as it readies for hosting again the French F.1 Grand-Prix at the end of June, 28 years after its last edition. The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, which currently enjoys the leading position in both the Teams’ and Drivers’ standings in the Endurance Cup as well as in the overall Blancpain GT Series, has a clear mission: to defend those positions. The two Audis R8 of the Belgian squad are entrusted to the usual line-ups, with Fred Vervisch subbing again for Robin Frijns.

 

Team Principal Vincent Vosse looks forward to the weekend: “We are always happy to go to Southern France this time of the year and for an event that really has its own and very pleasant atmosphere. I do not necessarily share the opinion that this is an excellent opportunity to prepare the Total 24 Hours of Spa, as the tracks are completely different and comparable only to the extent that they pose a similar problem with regard to track limits! It certainly is though an important event, also because of the greater amount of points it gives. Our objective is to keep the points leadership and it won’t be easy, as we know this is not a track particularly suited to our cars. Still, we were on the podium in the last two editions. It would be nice to repeat that and even better, to win, as our last success at the Ricard traces back from 2012.”

 

Having won at Monza and taken a valuable fourth at Silverstone, Dries Vanthoor, Christopher Mies and Álex Riberas, the trio of car #1, are leading the Endurance Cup standings. Their objective in France will be to keep and, if possible, increase the advantage. “The Paul Ricard has become faster with the new surface” explains Dries Vanthoor, “and I hope this will not pose an issue to our cars in the long straights. On the third sector, the Audi has always been among the top performers. This, and the fact the car is behaving well on all types of tracks this year, should allow us to be competitive. The objective is to keep the momentum and to keep scoring a maximum amount of points at every race. Consistency is going to be even more crucial this year in the fight for the championship.”  

 

In car #17, Stuart Leonard and Sheldon Van der Linde will be joined in this race by Frédéric Vervisch, who will sub again for Robin Frijns, taken by DTM commitments at the Hungaroring this weekend. The Belgian and the Brit already took one win together this year, at the Sprint Cup round at Brands Hatch, and Vervisch is certainly relishing on something great at the Ricard. “With many GT and TCR races, this is a quite busy period for me, but I am enjoying driving often and also the positive results”, admits the Belgian, “I am really looking forward to the Ricard 1000, which is a very nice race, and to being associated with Stuart and Sheldon. I have been recently at the Ricard for some coaching activity and the circuit has changed quite a lot. It has been resurfaced ahead of the Grand-Prix and it really makes a difference: it is much faster and slicker. One will have to adapt, as some of the reference points have changed. For sure, the tire issues that were common in the past won’t happen again, but the track has less grip. I am told it gets very tricky with rain, but luckily the forecasts point to the opposite. The Audis are performing well on all tracks this year, so I think we can aim at the Top-5 also at the Ricard, which is not the ideal track for the R8. We may be less comfortable in qualifying, but on a longer race like this, it shouldn’t penalize us too much.”

 

The event format is over two days, with free practice and pre-qualifying on Friday and qualifying on Saturday morning. The 6-hour race will kick-off at 17:45 on Saturday, with the chequered flag dropping at 23:45 and podium celebrations taking place at midnight!

 

Blancpain Endurance Cup – Round 3
Circuit Paul Ricard, France, 1st-2nd June 2018

 

Timetable (all in local time = CET)

 

Friday 1st June 2018
09:00-10:00 Bronze test

10:50-12:20 Free Practice

15:40-17:10 Pre-qualifying

 

Saturday 2nd June 2018
09:40-10:40 Qualifying
17:45-23:45 Race (6 hrs)

 

Belgian Audi Club Team WRT entries
# 1 Dries Vanthoor (B) – Christopher Mies (D) – Álex Riberas (E)
#17 Stuart Leonard (GB) – Sheldon van der Linde (ZA) – Fred Vervisch (B)

 

Provisional Blancpain Endurance Cup Drivers’ standings after Round 2 of 5:

 

1. Vanthoor-Riberas-Mies 37 points

2. Vaxivière-Dennis-Thiim 26

3. Stolz-Engel-Buuman 23

4. Goetz-Buhk 22

5. Vautier-Christodoulou-Marciello 18

13. Leonard-S.Vander Linde-Frijns 6

 

Provisional Blancpain Endurance Cup Teams’ standings after Round 2 of 5:

1. Belgian Audi Cub Team WRT 37 points

2. AF Racing R-Motorsport 32

3. Emil Frey Racing 25

 

Provisional Blancpain GT Series Drivers’ standings after Round 4 of 10:

1. Riberas-Mies 70.5 points

2. Vanthoor 67.5

3. Marciello 49

4. K.Van der Linde-S.Schothorst  43.5

5. Leonard 43

5. Engelhart-Bortolotti 39

8. Stevens 30.5

11. Vervisch 25

16. Frijns 18

24. Picariello-Magnus 7.5

 

Provisional Blancpain GT Series Teams’ standings after Round 4 of 10:

1. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT 92.5 points

2. Akka ASP 63

3. Attempto Racing 55.5

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